Rating: NNNN

In 2003, journalist Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan, who also co-wrote and -produced) helped an Irish woman, Philomena Lee (Judi Dench), track down the son she was forced to give up nearly five decades earlier.

Based on Sixsmith’s subsequent book, Philomena is an odd but effective combination of investigative drama and buddy picture, as the devout, working-class Lee and the privileged, cynical Sixsmith find common ground in the search for her son.

Director Stephen Frears lays it on a little thick in the glimpses of the young Philomena at a home for wayward mothers, but the rest of the story is handled far more elegantly, framing the historical blemish of baby trafficking through an immediate, personal lens.

It’s a tribute to both actors that Dench’s performance doesn’t feel like a naked Oscar bid, nor does she totally obliterate Coogan’s fine supporting turn.



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